What does your calendar look like? Is it just too busy? Want to change things, but have no idea what COULD go? Is it time to prune?
There is something about spring that requires that we cut out the extras and gear up the things that really matter. If we don’t, there are ramifications. We get…
Pushed to our limits
Pulled in too many directions
OK…angry and downright bitter.
It is time to spring clean our commitments. It is time to look at all that we have on our calendar and really evaluate:
Is it necessary?
Is it essential?
Is it stressing us out?
Is it pushing and pulling?
Is it worth it?
Is it the very best…or just another GOOD thing?
It is far too easy to just get in our ruts and let things go. You know the end result–a year that is a bit disappointing. A year filled with regrets. A year that doesn’t seem to count.
My sweet friend, 2010 is a year that we get a new beginning. TODAY is a new beginning. Why not join me “spring cleaning” yet another area of our lives this week–our commitments. Let’s roll up our sleeves and dig into the messies. Let’s pull everything out and really look at all of our commitments. Let’s evaluate, prune, organize, clean out and clean up. We can do it together. Then, we can reach for a year that really counts!
Ready? Let’s dig in…
Too Much In A Day…
Yep! This is one of my greatest struggles. I am one of those people who hopelessly plan too much into my life. I want to DO IT ALL! And, the sad thing is that I try to! Recently, one of my personal studies has been (don’t laugh!), “How to Manage My Time.” Why? Well, because I want to eliminate any possible hindrance so I can do MORE!! Hehe! I know motives may not necessarily be great here. Actually, they may signal a blaring warning that tells you that this is one area that I personally struggle with RIGHT NOW. True, but I have to share some of what I am finding (and applying) in my study. Who knows? It may help you to tame your schedule so you can busy doing the things that God has called you to do too!
For one thing, it really helps to sit down and really look at your day. What DOES get done in a typical day? I have found that I do get a lot done in a day. I will never be accused of being idle. In fact, I am writing this article while my husband runs errands (see the next section of this article about that!). I really do seize every moment I can. But, at the end of most days, I still have the same complaint, “I need MORE hours in my day!”
We are only alotted 24 hours a day. One prayer request that we can be sure WON’T be answered is the request for 85 hours in a day! Why? Because it would still not be enough for people like me! So, how do we make more hours in our day?
Make that list of what IS being done in a day. Make another list of what you would REALLY like to see included that you are not getting around to. See if what you are doing and if what you would like to do fits into what God has placed on your heart as your priorities. Make sure that they help you to reach toward the “mark.” For me, when we began homeschooling I struggled for a while with distractions and hindrances that are so common in a busy home. After, well, a whole year (I am very slow on some things!) the Lord showed me the value in looking over my typical day to see how I could fit in the things that were most important and those little things that are always going to pop up. I found that there were categories that most everything could fit into: Quiet Times, Chores, Table Time, Family Time, Productive Free Time, Ministry/Business, and Family Read Alouds. Actually this is the basic order for my day every day (well, now the kids are both graduated and out of the nest–so that time is now set aside for getting fit/healthy and even more business/ministry). It is possible at home. It is possible on the road. It is possible when we have company. It is possible when things go a bit hay-wire! These are the priorities for the day, but there are still things even with ME that never seem to get done unless they are part of the schedule for the day.
For example, this past summer, my doctor prescribed that I go to the Wellness Center for exercise daily. I had wanted more time to actually get around to exercising. But, it just seemed that if I had another 55 hours in my day that then I could have time to devote to exercise! Instead of asking for the impossible while neglecting such an important area of my life, I opted to fit this time into my daily schedule FIRST each day. It is amazing how much better everything else is running. Not only do I feel better, but I also have more energy and focus. Plus, my conscience is clear instead of being plagued with guilt, condemnation, and frustration. Yes. Make your list and see what you are doing AND not doing.
Making a List, Checking it Twice (or FIFTEEN TIMES!!)…
I made my list. Then, it was easier to see the holes in my life that were not being filled. Sure, I was accomplishing a lot with my children, our ministry, and even my marriage relationship. But, there were still glaring holes beaming out at me and plaguing me with guilt and condemnation! Yes, I wanted to exercise. I have stacks of wonderful audio tapes that I would love to hear. I want more time to sit back and relax, even if it is occasionally! I wanted more time to make memories with the children. Of course, I also wanted to be more productive. Those are the things that seem to give me the “feeling” that I am not accomplishing as much in my day as I really wanted. Of course, I was accomplishing the “work” in each day. On many days that was ALL that was accomplished. No wonder there was a feeling of frustration! We are geared to do more than just work day-in-day-out. So, what to do?
Look At Your Typical Day…
First, I had to take an honest look at all those things that were included in a typical day. Many were right down the line with the vision God has placed in my heart. Yet, there were still things that God had placed on my heart that were not ever making it into my days. Plus, there were other things that were very questionable. I had to look at every single thing in my day to really evaluate them all…
–> Were there things that could be combined so I could accomplish more tasks at one time?
–> Were there things that can be delegated to others so I could have more time for things that only I could do?
–> Were there things that simply needed to go? Were they past their season? Did they need to be eliminated because they were really not that essential to what we were about?
I am not saying that I was doing anything bad. I don’t think that is how the enemy typically hits some of us. Think about it. If you were given a temptation to do something downright wrong, would it really be a temptation to you? The way that the enemy prefers to hit gals like you and me is through the GOOD THINGS. You know–those things that no one else will or can do at church. Those little things that have “sweet” motives. Those little things that don’t look too hard, but end up zapping us. You know them. Just evaluating them has helped me sooo much. Everything that we do cost us in our two greatest commodities:
We have to make sure that what we are doing really matters. If we don’t, we will just stay busy, busy, busy. We will stay on the go. At the end, whether it is this year or at the end of our lives, we will look back with regrets.
I don’t want that. I know that today it is tough to let go of “our babies” whether they are activities or positions or systems that we have had in place for years or methods we have been using successfully or commitments. However, it is sooo worth it. Let’s evaluate every single thing we do, every single thing on our calendars and be ready to let go of anything that hinders or distracts us. It is sooo worth the hard work.
Yep! This may help you too. See if there can be things that can be combined. For me, exercise and listening to those teaching tapes get two things done. Neither fit into my schedule before because I felt that exercise was just frivolous (looking at this body OBVIOUSLY shows I was not right!). Listening to my teaching tapes seemed to always not fit in—I had to concentrate when I write or answer email, my family did not really appreciate hearing my tapes, and there was really no time other than that! However, fitting them together is the perfect answer! That 30 minutes a day is life-giving. It makes the other 23 hours and 30 minutes a whole lot better!
There were many other adjustments and changes. Not too easy, but definitely helpful! Things like cooking in the crockpot overnight so we are at home while it is cooking, but not having to stand over a stove during the day…going through the mail as we walk back from the mailbox and dumping the junk-mail into the trash before we walk in the house (our can is right outside the door!) rather than do a big clean-out during the year… Doing more things at one time really helps to use the time I have to the fullest!
Delegate! Yep! Talk about another toughie for me! I have worked on this one year-after-year for two decades. I suspect that this one will always need a conscientious effort by me. It is too easy for me to jump in and try to do it all.
The first time I ever delegated stands out in my mind as a turning point for me. My children were 7 and 4 at the time. We were living in our camper in Selma, AL while Harold was in the State Trooper Academy there. Living in the camper was probably one of my most life-changing experiences because I learned how much of my life at that time was “fluff” and wasted. Living in the camper forced me to only have my most essential belongings with me. (still have not unpacked many of the boxes we had stored away—now way over 15 years ago!!!) We made more memories than ever. Each day we had plenty of time for me to just mother, keep my home, homeschool, and even play games at the end of the day! Life was simple. Homemaking was easy. I made easy meals. Cleanup of the whole camper was usually 5-10 minutes or at most 25 minutes (big change from my 10-12 hour cleaning days before!)! The hardest part was the small space and taking laundry OUT to the laundrymat every few days. The good part was that in Selma the laundrymat was AT THE POOL! The children could play and I could enjoy watching over them while I read, did laundry AND tanned! (had the best tan and read more that 6 months than ever in my life!) However, in the midst of this EASIER life there were STILL struggles!
How could it be? Well, I could clean up, but while I was cleaning my children were idle—arguing (yep, these PERFECT children were acting like other children!), messing up the other side of the room (EEK!), and dirtying up their clothes (EVERY DAY!).
One day in particular, a Monday (Could I find a better word to give you a “picture” of this scene?) to be completely accurate, I had so much pressing in that day. I was standing at my 1 ft X 1ft X 4inch deep sink (it still felt like Mt. Everest!) full of dishes. The children were behind me just finishing their breakfast. And, they had the audacity to begin fussing over WHO could watch their movie (and WE homeschool!). The quarreling was getting ON MY NERVES—the really touchy ones! There I was…washing dishes…the laundry was there needing for me to fold it…the toilets needed cleaning…we needed to begin our lessons for the day…my husband was gone for another week at the academy, leaving me with my PERFECT little morons, I mean children, lambs, beloved little ones…and here they were ARGUING! I snapped. I admit it! I simply snapped. I told them, actually screamed at them, to stop arguing and just fold those clothes if they had that much energy. Still washing my dishes…silence permeated the room for several minutes until giggly-giggles took over. I turned around to find that almost ALL of the laundry was folded and they were LIKING IT! Tears filled my eyes. The Lord spoke to my heart. I did not have to do it all myself! MY children COULD help me!
Oh yea! And so can your children! What CAN be delegated? Anything! Everything, well, there are a few things that only YOU can do. Find them and delegate the rest! Oh, it may not immediately be the same standard that you do things yourself, but who looks in the dresser anyway? (only sick people we should never try to please, if you ask me!) Plus, think of how valuable it is for children to learn from an early age to pitch in and be a “part” of the family. So, take a look at your list of things that YOU are doing each day. Look at what can be delegated. Then, delegate to your little ones!
Finally, go back to your trusty list. What can be eliminated? This is where you may experience anxiety. But, really look at all you do in a day. Are those things really important? Can they be done in another way that can give you more time? Let me take you home with me again. I love to have healthy, homemade meals. But, reality says that if I want to save time, this was one of those areas that really could be simplified down so much that much of the time spent in the kitchen on a daily basis could actually be eliminated. Gasping? Well, so did I–at first!
I took an honest look at our meals. We could eliminate so much that I could gain HOURS each week. How? Well, I decided to do more bulk cooking, buy more “ready-made” meals, like Lasagna from Sam’s, Baked Chicken (heat and serve) from Sam’s, Pizza (yep, and my children LOVE it!), and even Heavenly Ham! Yep, Heavenly Ham (should be getting a percentage here, huh?). What may seem like an extravagance is really a great way to save precious TIME and have great meals whether using the Ham as the meat for a meal or as sandwich meat. One big ham lasts our family for several weeks. In addition to tasting great and saving me time cooking and preparing the ham, we also cut at least an hour of cooking each day for lunch for those two weeks. All I have to do is add vegetables (we have a freezer full of vegetables from the garden that just have to be de-frosted and warmed!) and bread! A typical meal can come together in 15-30 minutes! We can also use food like the Heavenly Ham for lunch. We just make sandwiches and either eat just the sandwich or have a sandwich and homemade soup, that also can be made in a big pot! Easy. Saves time for other more important things in my schedule—like enjoying the family I am feeding!!
Now, you may not feel that cooking can be eliminated in your daily schedule. Each of our families are so very different. This is where only God can help you to decide what can be combined, delegated, eliminated OR done by you each day! Hear HIM and He is guaranteed not to fail you!
Too Much Going…
Hummm….well, here we get a little personal, huh? This is an area that God RESTRICTED for me. It was just not as clear-cut as DO, COMBINE, DELEGATE, OR ELIMINATE. Instead, my “going” has to be decided each and every day during my daily time with God. Each instance must be thrown up on that altar for God to classify for us!
What about you? Do you struggle with all of the going? Does it get to be too much? What are we to do?
Beloved, first slow down! Watch out for too much going! Oh, it may not even be for “bad” stuff! It just keeps us from having what we really want! Think about it…
Is this a hindrance for you?
Let’s get a little more personal. Do you go so much (even for good things) that you sometimes find that you cannot truly enjoy your home? When was the last time you had TIME to leisurely relax and enjoy your home? For me, this is a constant struggle. A daily struggle! There are so many “to-do’s” that press in that I get too busy, going too many directions before I even know it!
I have had a test for years that I periodically do to evaluate my lifestyle and schedule. I ask myself,
–> “Can I spend one entire week at home without feeling as though I am not getting to do all I need to do?” (Yep, I am squirming a bit here too!)
–> “Is my home supplied well enough that I can stay home without having to “run” to get more things that I “need” to cook, teach my children, manage my home?” (Gasp! EEK!)
–> “Is a quiet, peaceful homelife impossible because I am too busy going to activities?” (OUCH!)
–> “Are all those activities truly God’s will?” (Sniff, sniff!)
–> “Would all those same activities go on just as well without ME?” (Well, uh, how would I know if I am not there?)
–> “What CAN I eliminate to give us more time at home as a family?” (Ok…Ok!)
–> “Does my husband feel that all I am doing is essential? God’s will?” (Well, uh…)
It is amazing how much CAN GO! Just last week, Harold and I got a great big laugh when we both shared what had been on our hearts, at the same time! I had noticed that we were losing time with errands on almost a daily basis. Oh, and almost the SAME errands every single day! My reasons were simple, I wanted for to be a good steward of the money, not buying anything that could go to waste. But, as a result, our time was being wasted…gas going and coming was being wasted…I was not as prepared for each day as I could have been…and the atmosphere of our home was interrupted every day with “to-do’s.”
This is not the only area that gets out of control easy at our home. Our schedule is just as wild! I must manage our outside activities or very quickly we become THEIR servants!
I know what you are saying. I say the same thing, “Oh! But This is GOOD!” Yep!
We travel on a weekly basis throughout the whole year. Because of this, as we decided to travel this much, we had to eliminate many GOOD things from our schedule.
Naturally, I am just as much of a “clutter-bug” with our TIME as I am with books, papers, etc. Loosening my grip on those GOOD THINGS is so, SO hard! Yet, there is no way to truly do exactly what God has called us to do, except to prune! Oh, yea! That hard word!
Getting back to the core.
Keeping only what is bearing fruit, so all of the nutrients (energy) can go into bearing MORE fruit! Truly, the person was “right on” who said that if satan can’t get us to do WRONG things, then he will keep us busy doing a lot of GOOD things which ultimately hinder us from doing God’s VERY BEST. That person must have been JUST like me! What about you?
Too busy “going” to BUILD your home, to be ALL THERE, to do what really matters, to do what COUNTS?
Slow down to enjoy your home.
Slow down to make your home special, a fortress.
It is time to SPRING CLEAN those commitments!
But! How *DO* ya do it? ???
Have no idea how to even begin? Have no idea what you genuinely could let go? Is it just too confusing? Afraid you or your family will miss something?
–> Go to God with your schedule. Place all activities on the altar. Wait on Him. I promise that God will lead you, direct you and teach you. He will not leave you in the midst of confusion. He will come alongside of you and help you whether it is big or little choices that need to be made. Just take it all to Him and turn Him loose!
–> Share your heart with your husband. Let your husband set your schedule. Husbands really do have a gift for seeing through activities. They can see straight through all of the sugar-coating all the way to a vision for how it will really look in our homes and how it will feel as we live it out. Through the years, Harold has had a keen eye for things that we SHOULD “go for” and for the things that were going to be a trap and get us off track. It is not always easy for me to follow, but when I dare to listen and follow, I am amazed at how much better things go. Get your sweetheart’s TRUE insights before adding anything into your schedule. Also, lay everything out today before him. Ask him what needs to go, what needs to stay, what is missing. You will LOVE the results!
–> Look over all of the activities very carefully, evaluating them honestly. Do they work toward the call that God has for your family? Are they necessary? Do they compete for “down-time” that your family really needs to fellowship, rest, and develop a lifestyle of learning? Have you been in a rut, not getting things done, with no idea WHY? Let’s really look at everything with the “pruning sheers” in hand. Let’s be willing to let go of all of the good things so we can reach for the very best things, the things that COUNT!
–> Be on guard! Titus 2: 3-5 instructs the older women to teach the younger women several very important lessons. One in particular applies here– to be keepers of their homes. A keeper is a “guard” or “one entrusted to guard.” Godly women are called to be a guard over their homes. We must constantly guard our home. This is more than just a fun “spring cleaning” that we MIGHT want to do, rather it is essential that we come back to a place regularly where we check to see how we are doing, where we reinforce “the gates” and repair any breaches. We must constantly evaluate whether our homes are in conformity with the vision God has given us for our family. We must constantly check our “gardens” and uproot any weeds or overgrown plants that hinder the growth of our most precious “plants,” our children! We have to constantly make sure to have time with God, time with our husbands, time with our children, time within our homes, time to minister to those within our sphere of influence, and time left so we can take care of ourselves! We have to be ALL THERE ALL OF THE TIME! That means that this is not an extra–when-we-get-around-to-it option. This is an essential. We need to set aside time to make sure that everything we do really counts. We need to be on guard against those things that have a way of easing into our lives to our detriment.
Sweet friends, what does it look like? Are there things that need to go? Are there things that are very good, but they are keeping you from the very best? Today, roll up your sleeves and dare to spring clean. Dig in and really do that hard work. It is SO worth it! Choose those commitments that are the very best and let go of all of the rest–even the good stuff.
The Bible says that there are works set from the foundation of the world. There are thing that really count–and things that do not count. Be faithful in YOUR works!
Seek God’s wisdom for your commitments–EVEN your lifestyle and schedule. Don’t let the enemy distract you by what is “out there” somewhere else. Stick to the main thing–that thing that cannot be taken away from you.
Don’t feel guilty about letting great things go. Do ALL you can to preserve that home atmosphere from ALL distractions that are out there. Don’t get too busy to build your home for truly you have much to look forward to—just look at Proverbs 24: 3-4:
“Through skillful and godly wisdom is a house (a life, a home, a family) built, and by understanding it is established [on a sound and good foundation], and by knowledge shall its chambers [of every area] be filled with all precious and pleasant riches.” Proverbs 24: 3-4
Ah, yes! Build your home! As you do, you will move forward, making this year really count! Roll up those sleeves. Dig in and do the hard work. Let’s get busy spring cleaning our commitments!